Exploring the Great White North isn’t complete without a Western Canada road trip. The provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are home to the finest scenery in Canada. And with their mesmerizing road routes, they’re built for serious Canadian road-tripping.
On your Western Canada itinerary, you’ll roam along the iconic Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff & Lake Louise. You’ll enjoy the scenic drive along the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park. And you’ll see the West Coast at its finest as you head north to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Ready to go? Start planning the ultimate Western Canadian road trip itinerary with this complete guide.
Where to go in Western Canada in two weeks
Let’s not deny it: Trying to cram in the ultimate road trip in Western Canada in 2 weeks is going to be tough. Maybe even nearly impossible.
The two major Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are worth more than two weeks on their own. You’re not going to see it all.
Think of this road-trip itinerary, instead, as a primer. It serves as an introduction to some of the best places to visit in Canada. It will, no doubt, prime your appetite to discover more at a more languished pace on future road trips.
Introduce yourself to Western Canada in the region’s urban gateway of Calgary. Outside of Canada, Calgary is most famous for hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics. Alberta’s biggest city is a fantastic Canadian travel destination in its own right, though. It’s also become one of the country’s coolest cities to live in.
Our prescription for spending two days in Calgary might not suit travellers champing at the bit for outdoor adventures. But it’ll allow time to acclimate to the new time zone. You’ll also be able to rest up for the inevitable long travel days that follow.
What to do in Calgary
Even if you decide to spend just one day in Calgary, you’ll come to appreciate and enjoy this friendly Canadian city. While you won’t see them all on a quick road trip, the top tourist attractions in Calgary include:
- Calgary Stampede: If you’re visiting Calgary in July, make sure you time your visit with the Stampede. Dubbed the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Calgary Stampede sets off 10 days of summer fun. You’ll enjoy everything from rodeos & chuckwagon races to live country music & Western-inspired breakfasts.
- Stephen Avenue: Running through the heart of downtown Calgary, Stephen Avenue is one of the best places to start exploring the city centre. The pedestrianized section between 4 Street SW and 1 Street SE is chock-loaded with attractions. You’ll find restaurants, boutique shops, and shopping malls. You’ll also spot several impressive heritage buildings and some cool street art.
- Calgary Tower: The most distinguishable feature in Calgary’s skyline, Calgary Tower is the best place in town to check out the city from above. The tower’s observation deck sits at the 191-metre level. From it, you’ll be able to see the entire city centre and even as far as the Rocky Mountains if the weather’s right.
- Heritage Park Historical Village: Located south of the city, Heritage Park Historical Village is one of Calgary’s top attractions. The family-friendly open-air museum features over 180 exhibits and costumed performances. The village recreates life in Western Canada from the time of confederation to the 1930s. Kids will love it!
Where to stay in Calgary
For road-trippers, the best areas to stay in Calgary include Downtown and the Beltline. In these central neighbourhoods, you’ll be close to the top attractions. The major highways that’ll take you to your next stops are close, too.
- Holiday Inn Express and Suites Calgary: If you want to keep your budget in check, book yourself into one of these self-catering downtown suites.
- Hyatt Regency Calgary: Among Calgary’s top mid-range hotels, the Hyatt Regency features spacious modern rooms. You’ll also enjoy the excellent amenities, including an on-site restaurant and fitness centre.
- Hotel Le Germain: The best luxury hotel in Downtown Calgary, the Hotel Le Germain is a charming boutique hotel with luxurious rooms. Amenities include a soothing on-site spa, restaurants, and a laid-back lounge.
Many may balk at the decision to include one day in Edmonton in this road trip itinerary. The reasoning is simple.
Edmonton is 3 hours north of Calgary by car. Stopping Alberta’s capital breaks up the journey between Calgary and Jasper National Park. Jasper, one of Canada’s must-see destinations, is an essential stop on any Western Canada itinerary. By driving to Jasper via Edmonton rather than Banff, you’ll avoid backtracking.
What to do in Edmonton
Perhaps Edmonton’s a little short on fans. (Other than fans of the hockey variety. There are plenty of those around here.) That doesn’t mean Edmonton isn’t worth visiting.
As the long-standing capital of Alberta, Edmonton isn’t short on great sightseeing opportunities. There’s plenty of culture & history to tease out in Edmonton, even on a time crunch. The top tourist attractions in Edmonton include:
- Art Gallery of Alberta: Even if you’re not an art lover, you’ll appreciate the Art Gallery of Alberta. The gallery hosts an over 6,000-strong collection of local, Canadian, and international art. The gallery’s new exterior design, shimmering with zinc and glass, is also a stand-out landmark in downtown Edmonton.
- West Edmonton Mall: Travelling to Edmonton with kids? You won’t be able to weasel out of a visit to the West Edmonton Mall! The largest mall in North America is more than just a shopping centre; it’s a destination all to its own. Step inside for family fun in the mall’s indoor amusement park and waterpark. At the mall, you’ll also spot the icon Santa Maria. The full-scale pirate ship was fashioned after Christopher Columbus’s maiden voyage vessel.
- Old Strathcona: For a bite to eat with a little heritage aftertaste, jet down to Old Strathcona. Located just south of the river from downtown, Strathcona is one of Edmonton’s oldest boroughs. Centred along Whyte Avenue, Strathcona is full of cool heritage buildings. Inside hide restaurants, bars, clubs, boutique shops, and performing arts venues.
- North Saskatchewan River Valley: Edmonton’s reputation as a green city stems from its massive river valley. The valley cuddles the snaking banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Its beautiful urban parkland is among the biggest and best in North America. If you find yourself with an extra couple hours to kill on a bright sunny day while it away here.
Where to stay in Edmonton
For most visitors on a time-crunch, the best areas to stay in Edmonton for sightseeing include Downtown and Strathcona. West Edmonton is another good option if you’re travelling in a larger group. There’s a small cluster of family-friendly hotels just north of the mall.
- Varscona Hotel on Whyte: For a stay in historic Strathcona, this popular Whyte Avenue hotel offers excellent value. The neighbourhood’s trendy restaurant & bar scene is just minutes away.
- Four Points by Sheraton Edmonton West: For families, this brand-new 3-hotel in West Edmonton promises a comfortable stay in the city. You’ll love its indoor pool, hot tub, fitness centre, and restaurant.
- The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald: The top luxury hotel in Edmonton, this historic 5-star is legendary. It features elegant rooms and luxurious amenities, including a fine-dining restaurant and spa.
Jasper National Park
Embarking Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16), the true Canadian road-trippin’ fun begins. Jasper National Park is the first in the series of epic parks on this itinerary. In tandem, they comprise the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.
The 4-hour drive between Edmonton and Jasper transports you from prairies towards the heart of the Canadian Rockies. In a few short hours, the plains slowly begin to roll upwards. Soon, they transition into the dramatic mountain landscapes Alberta is famous for.
Our advice is to spend at least 3 days in Jasper National Park. Since you’ll spend much of the first day getting there, it’ll leave you two days in Jasper. With them, you can seek out the perfect outdoor activities to fill out your trip to one of the top places to visit Alberta.
What to do in Jasper
Trying to experience the best of Jasper National Park can be tough on a time-crunch. Like other areas in the Canadian Rockies and many of the other top places to visit Alberta, the weather in Jasper is highly seasonal and often unpredictable.
Before you embark into the wilderness, be sure to read weather reports and heed local advice, including grizzly bear warnings. Search out some of these top tourist attractions in Jasper:
- Maligne Lake: One of Jasper National Park’s must-see moments, Maligne Lake sets a classic scene. The shimmering lake has been depicted in photographs and paintings all over the world. Want to catch the lake at its most iconic? Seek out a panorama of the lake alongside the towering pine trees of Spirit Island. With its Rocky Mountains backdrop, it’s a stunner.
- Jasper SkyTram: The iconic Jasper SkyTram shoots up 2,263 metres on Whistlers Mountain. It offers one of Jasper’s best sightseeing opportunities. If you’re feeling extra adventurous (and the weather is co-operating), hike the trail to the peak of Whistlers Mountain. It’s one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park.
- Columbia Icefield: One of the largest non-polar icefields in the world, the majestic Columbia Icefield is an essential stop on any road trip. Take a road trip along the Icefields Parkway to visit the Columbia Icefield en route to Banff. Even better, hop onto a guided Ice Explorer tour to see the Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Skywalk in all their glory.
- Athabasca Falls: Watch the mighty Athabasca River crash 23 metres below with a visit to Athabasca Falls. The waterfalls are located on the Icefields Parkway, about 30 minutes from Jasper Town.
- Miette Hot Springs: Looking to unwind on your last day in Jasper? There’s hardly a better place to do it than Miette Hot Springs. They’re the hottest natural hot springs in the Rockies. While in the area, you might also want to test your quads with the popular nearby Sulphur Skyline Trail.
Where to stay in Jasper
The bulk of the best hotels in Jasper lie in & around Jasper Town, the park’s main tourist hub. Staying within the town, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops with everything you need for your vacation.
- Bear Hill Lodge: Situated only 10 minutes from the centre of town, this lovely rustic lodge has a palpable country vibe. It’s perfect for adding a little wilderness to your trip.
- Pyramid Lake Resort: Love the calming effects of staying near water? Book a room at this top-notch lakeside resort. Located on Pyramid Lake, the resort offers plenty of excellent amenities & activities. Highlights include a private beach, hot tub, canoeing, and kayaking.
- Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge: The top luxury hotel in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge pulls out all the stops to ensure your national park stay is nothing short of perfect. The resort is perched on the shore of beautiful Beauvert Lake. It offers guests everything from a spa to an award-winning golf course.
Banff National Park
Heading south from Jasper to Banff along the Icefields Parkway is one of Canada’s best road trips. And whether you want to take it slow or make it snappy, this stretch might become one of the highlights of your trip.
Along the way, you’ll see towering mountains crawling with glaciers. You’ll spot shimmering glacial lakes hiding among deep pine forests. A few great places to visit along the way include Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls. You’ll also find the majestic Columbia Icefield on the edge of the two national parks.
Aim to spend at least 3 days in Banff National Park. There’s a ton to see here. Although you definitely won’t get to it all in just a few days, it’s enough time to get dazzled by it. Thoroughly!
What to do in Banff
Roaming about Banff almost feels like it’s cheating; it’s like packing all Canada’s natural charms all into a single tight package. The Banff area teems with incredible hiking trails. They meander among densely forested valleys, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and towering summits.
As you wander around, set your radar on these top tourist attractions in Banff:
- Moraine Lake: Located just south of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is so legendary it’s squeezed its way onto Canadian currency. If you want to see Moraine Lake at its most dazzling, visit in summer. The lake remains frozen for over half the year. It finally melts by June, exposing its lustrous colours.
- Lake Louise: A destination in its own right, Lake Louise is one of Banff’s most famous places. This iconic glacial lake is incredible all year round. It’s at its absolute best in summer, though. In summer, its crystalline waters shimmer with a stunning aquamarine blue to a Rocky Mountain backdrop. There’s a ton of great hiking trails in the Lake Louise area to explore its nooks and crannies, including Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. If you’re visiting in winter, strap on a pair of skis and hit the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort. It’s the biggest of the three ski resorts in Banff and one of Canada’s best ski resorts!
- Sulphur Mountain: If you only had one day in Banff, Sulphur Mountain would be a great place to start exploring. The trail to the summit is one of the most accessible hiking trails in Banff, albeit not one of the easiest. If you want to save your energy, you can, instead, opt to zip up to the top with the Banff Gondola.
- Johnston Canyon: For one of the easier, more family-friendly hikes in Banff, head over to Johnston Canyon. Take the short 1.1-kilometre trail to Lower Falls. To get even better views of the canyon area, trek a little further to the Upper Falls.
Where to stay in Banff
For most travellers, the best place to stay is within the town of Banff itself. There’s a great selection of accommodations here. Keep in mind that the top hotels in Banff book up quickly in the peak summer months and during ski season.
Choosing to stay at a hotel in Lake Louise is another option. It’s a better choice if you’d like to focus more on destinations in the northern part of the park like Peyto Lake, Bow Lake or Mount Saint Piran.
- Mount Royal Hotel: One of the top value hotels in the area, this modern hotel offers beautiful design along with great amenities like a hot tub and sauna.
- Banff Boutique Inn: Sporting a fantastic location, this boutique B&B blends alpine and contemporary motifs for a comforting stay.
- Moose Hotel & Suites: Situated in the centre of Banff, these suites offer alpine-inspired rooms. You’ll also enjoy excellent amenities, including a full-service spa, indoor & outdoor pools, and a fitness centre. The highlight, though, is the two rooftop hot tubs with mountain views.
- Fairmont Banff Springs: Built in 1888, this historic luxury hotel, like its sister property in Lake Louise, needs no introduction. If you can fit it into your travel budget, spend the night here. It’s one of the most legendary places to stay in Canada!
Once you’ve dug your heels into Banff, hit the Trans-Canada Highway. Cross over into the province of British Columbia.
Along the way, you’ll pass by two other epic Canada national parks—Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park of Canada. Got a little extra time on your hands and want an extra dash of Canadian outdoor adventure at its finest? Spend a night or two in the town of Golden, B.C., en route. You won’t regret it.
Let’s depart from the typical Banff to Vancouver route along the Trans-Canada. Instead, veer south at Sicamous onto Highway 97A & Highway 97 towards Kelowna.
Kelowna is the unofficial capital of the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan region is known for its orchards, vineyards, wineries and cideries.
The scenic drive from Banff to Kelowna clocks in at under six hours. Spending at least two nights in Kelowna. It’ll give you an evening to rest and one day in Kelowna to explore its wineries, museums, or lakefront walking trails.
What to do in Kelowna
Ever-expanding Kelowna is the third-largest city in British Columbia. It trails only Vancouver and the capital city of Victoria. This means that you’ll find plenty to do here throughout the year.
The highlight of any road trip to Kelowna is dabbling in its wine culture. Kelowna is home to some of the best wineries in the Okanagan Valley and some of Canada’s most well-known. A few of the top tourist attractions in Kelowna include:
- Mission Hill Family Estate Winery: If you’ve only got time for one winery tour in Kelowna, make it this one. This West Kelowna winery is famous for both its award-winning wine and its dramatic views over Okanagan Lake.
- Kasugai Gardens: You don’t need to visit Japan to see Japanese landscape design at its finest! Kasugai Gardens is one of the most interesting parks in Kelowna and a wonderful place to chill out in the city centre. The park features a wonderful interplay of stone lanterns, waterfalls, pathways, pine trees, and a pond filled with koi.
- Kelowna Art Gallery: Kelowna is home to a thriving art scene and one of the best places to see it in action is at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The gallery hosts four different exhibitions. Its permanent collection focuses on works by local artists from the Okanagan, B.C., and the rest of Canada.
- Mission Creek Regional Park: For outdoor adventure on the doorstep of the city, squish this regional park into your Kelowna itinerary. There are 92 hectares of parkland to explore here as you walk along some of the best hiking trails in Kelowna.
Where to stay in Kelowna
For travellers visiting Kelowna, the city centre is a good place to start looking for accommodations. It’s home to most of the best hotels in Kelowna. The centre is conveniently located to take full advantage of the sightseeing opportunities.
- Royal Anne Hotel: With its comfortable rooms, this hotel offers superb value in downtown Kelowna. You’ll also enjoy a host of excellent extra amenities, including a gym and two saunas.
- Coast Capri Hotel: Located blocks from the lakefront, this hotel has a resort-like feel to it. It flashes a menu of amenities, including two on-site restaurants, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a spa.
- Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort: Nestled on the shores of Okanagan Lake, this resort is a great choice for couples and families alike. There’s a whole range of amenities here, from hot tubs to a fitness centre. You’ll also be able to relax at the on-site wine bar, featuring the Okanagan’s top vintners.
- The Royal Kelowna: For Kelowna luxury at its finest, hunker down at this hotel. You’ll love chilling out at the rooftop infinity pool and hot tub.
From Kelowna, it’s a scenic 4-hour drive to Vancouver, the last stop on your ultimate Western Canada road trip. Vancouver is the third-biggest metro area in Canada. Arguably, the West Coast city is the country’s most well-rounded urban destination. Vancouver will, no doubt, quickly become a favourite.
Vancouver is hemmed into a Pacific Ocean inlet by the North Shore Mountains. The city occupies a geographical location that most world cities only dream of. With wilderness knocking on its doorstep, it’s no surprise that Vancouverites are keen on outdoor adventures. The city’s most compelling charms for visitors lie outside rather than in.
We’d recommend spending at least 3 days in Vancouver on this road trip. With all the city’s charms and all the great day trips from Vancouver, it’s hardly enough time to fit it all in. But it’s a great primer. It’ll leave you wanting to return to spend more time in this quintessential Canadian West Coast city.
What to do in Vancouver
From its coastal beaches to primordial forests, Vancouver’s like no other place in Canada. While there’s a ton to see & do in the city itself, most visitors love Vancouver for its outdoor adventures.
With just a couple free days, you’ll be hard-pressed to fit in everything worth seeing. Get a good start with some of these top tourist attractions in Vancouver:
- Stanley Park: Even if you’ve only got one day in Vancouver, don’t miss visiting this spectacular urban park. Stanley Park sits on over 1,000 acres of parkland on the western edge of Vancouver Harbour. It’s loaded with walking trails including the Vancouver Seawall, a 28-kilometre-long waterfront path.
- Granville Island: Located on a peninsula southwest of downtown, Granville Island is one of the coolest areas to check out in Vancouver. The “island” is packed with restaurants, craft beer bars, and shops. Be sure to pop into Granville Island Public Market, one of the city’s largest markets.
- Gastown: If you’re looking to step back into Vancouver’s past, there’s no better place to do it than Gastown. This downtown neighbourhood is the city’s oldest commercial area. It features a wealth of well-preserved Victorian architecture. Among its historic buildings hide boutiques, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge: Need some fresh air? Head just 15 minutes north of downtown. Sink into the primordial coastal forest to experience the legendary Capilano Suspension Bridge. Spanning the Capilano Canyon, the 137-metre-long bridge is one of the city’s most popular things to check out. Besides walking across the bridge, check out the Treetops Adventure. The 30-metre-high walkway waltzed through the canopy. Or take on the gravity-defying Cliffwalk, clinging to the edge of the canyon.
Where to stay in Vancouver
For most travellers on a time-crunch, the best areas to stay in Vancouver are those in & around the downtown. The top neighbourhoods include historic Gastown and Yaletown.
- Blue Horizon Hotel: Located in the heart of downtown on Robson Street, this excellent hotel is perfectly positioned to take on the best of Vancouver. Splurge on a corner room for great views over the city.
- Hotel BLU: If you’re looking to stay in hip Yaletown, this 4-star hotel is a superb choice. There’s a great lineup of amenities here, including an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness centre.
- L’Hermitage Hotel: On the doorstep of BC Place and the Vancouver Art Gallery, this chic hotel offers plenty for culture-lovers. The relaxing outdoor patio and pool area is perfect for a chillin’ after a day of checking out all Vancouver has to offer.
No visit to British Columbia is complete without visiting Whistler. The alpine resort town is 121 kilometres from Downtown Vancouver. Whistler is a Canadian road trip destination par excellence.
To get to Whistler from Vancouver, you’ll travel along the picturesque Sea to Sky Highway. The route is one of the most scenic drives & short road trips in Canada.
On this time-crunched Western Canada swing, we’re banking on just one day in Whistler. If you’re visiting Canada in winter, however, you might want to stay in Whistler and spend a few more days. Whistler is one of the top skiing destinations in Canada. It’s worthy of a longer visit to carve out its legendary pistes.
What to do in Whistler
No matter which time of year you travel to Whistler, there’s plenty to enjoy. In winter, Whistler’s a popular skiing destination that’s among the best in Canada; in summer, it turns its attention to other adventure sports like mountain biking & hiking.
To get the most out of your road trip, get started with these top tourist attractions in Whistler:
- Whistler Blackcomb: Whether you’re in Whistler in summer or winter, you’ll find something to please your tastes at this popular mountain resort. In winter, you can ski down one of its 200 runs. Or, in summer, power through the rainforest on its extensive biking trail network.
- Peak 2 Peak Gondola: Over 3 kilometres long, this ropeway connecting the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. It’s one of the world’s longest ropeways with epic views to match all year round.
- Garibaldi Provincial Park: For those who’d rather spend the day hiking, there’s hardly a better spot in the Whistler area than Garibaldi Provincial Park. The park’s namesake, Garibaldi Lake, is among the area’s finest. It shimmers with otherworldly aquamarine colours when the light reflects just right. While you’ll find some of the best hiking trails in Whistler here, most are fairly challenging. They’ll require a decent level of fitness and stamina.
More places to visit on your Western Canada itinerary
Got a little more time for your Western Canada road trip? Here are a few more ideas to tweak your itinerary…
The capital of British Columbia and one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, Victoria is a fantastic addition to any trip to Western Canada. It’s located on beautiful and rugged Vancouver Island. The island is a 1h45m ferry ride from mainland B.C.
Victoria is often considered the most British city in North America. And as you begin to discover its charms, it’s obvious why. Among the top tourist attractions in Victoria are lovely English gardens and old Victorian buildings. You’ll even spot a couple baronial castles.
If you’ve got more than one day in Victoria, be sure to road trip over to Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. The coastal rainforest park is one of the best day trips from Victoria. It’s home to some of the best hiking on Vancouver Island, including the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
While not as well-known as other destinations in Western Canada, Tofino is one of the coolest places to go on Vancouver Island. The small coastal town is Canada’s uncontested top surfing destination.
Outside of its swells, there are plenty of things to do in Tofino. Activities include kayaking, fishing, hiking, and even whale-watching. Along the waterfront, you’ll also find a ton of hip places to eat and a slew of great craft beer breweries & bars.